Chelsea's Lampard 'Won't Fear to Play Young Players' amid Mason Mount Criticism

James Dudko@@JamesDudkoFeatured ColumnistAugust 14, 2019

ISTANBUL, TURKEY - AUGUST 13: Chelsea manager Frank Lampard looks on during a Chelsea training session ahead of the UEFA Super Cup match at Vodafone Park on August 13, 2019 in Istanbul, Turkey. (Photo by Chris Brunskill/Fantasista/Getty Images)
Chris Brunskill/Fantasista/Getty Images

Frank Lampard won't shy away from trusting his young players to guide Chelsea to a successful season. The Blues manager was criticised for leaning on youth during Sunday's 4-0 defeat to Manchester United at Old Trafford, particularly for the selection of 20-year-old attacking midfielder Mason Mount.

Jose Mourinho, Lampard's former manager at Stamford Bridge who was appearing as an analyst on Sky Sports, was among those who questioned the policy of throwing youngsters in at the deep end for a big game away from home.

Yet Lampard isn't about to lose faith in his precocious talents.

Speaking ahead of facing Liverpool in Wednesday's UEFA Super Cup, he defended the decision to let Mount lead the midfield against United, per TalkSport's Daniel Sandford: "I pick the best team to win the game, regardless of age. Mount deserves his chance on merit; I won't fear to play young players."

The first-year CFC boss felt including young players made the Blues more active and tenacious off the ball. It's something he's not about to change: "I will have no fears to play players because of their age. They will always have a chance."

Lampard has little choice but to continue relying on youngsters while the club is operating under a FIFA-imposed transfer ban. Chelsea can't sign players until next summer, so Lampard needs academy products to supplement a squad that said goodbye to star winger Eden Hazard and centre-backs David Luiz and Gary Cahill in recent months.

Aside from necessity forcing his hand, Lampard doubled down on his defence of Mount: "Scoring goals...he will step up levels as he develops; I'm a huge fan of his."

This level of support is understandable since Mount thrived under Lampard during a loan spell with Derby County last season. The England under-21 international netted nine goals and supplied four assists for the Rams in the second tier of English football.

Mount found the step up to the top level more difficult to handle, despite a solid effort in the red half of Manchester:

Mourinho was not so enamoured with Mount's performance. He said on Sky Sports (h/t Richard Fay of the Manchester Evening News) that Chelsea needed "a little bit more" than what Mount and 21-year-old striker Tammy Abraham produced against United.

The something extra Mourinho referred to is "a little bit of experience," and there is no shortage of it in Chelsea's ranks. Lampard can call on established names such as Mateo Kovacic and Jorginho, both of whom started on Sunday, in midfield. 

N'Golo Kante will also be available once the holding player returns to full fitness:

With Christian Pulisic, Ross Barkley and Willian also in the mix, Lampard will be taking a big leap of faith continuing to feature Mount once all of his more experienced options are available. Chelsea already look behind the curve in the Premier League ahead of what figures to be a tough slog to finish in the top four and qualify again for next season's Champions League.

Being prepared to risk points with the inevitable mistakes that young players learning on the job will make is a risk Lampard may not be able to afford. Chelsea haven't been shy about changing managers quickly when things don't go well, and although Lampard is a club legend and the Blues' record goalscorer, he's unlikely to be immune from the boot if the heavy defeats quickly start to pile up. 

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